U.S. patients trust docs, but not e-health records, survey shows

Many respondents don't even trust themselves with their own records

While Americans trust their physicians to keep their healthcare information private, they don't extend that same trust to computerized records systems, according to a new survey from CDW.

Thirty-five percent of 1,000 survey respondents indicated they are worried that their health information will end up widely available on the Internet. And, half of the respondents believe that electronic health records (EHRs) will have a negative impact on the privacy of their health data. Surprisingly, 24% of respondents said they don't even trust themselves with access to their own records.

Only 27% of respondents felt EHRs would have a somewhat positive or significantly positive affect on their privacy. Another 24% said that EHRs would have no impact on privacy at all.

The study, conducted by O'Keeffe & Company and ResearchNow for CDW, surveyed 1,000 adults Jan. 24-31. Those surveyed had been to both a doctor's office and a hospital or outpatient facility in the past 18 months. The full results of the survey will be released next month.

Physicians scored high marks for public trust.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents indicated they trust physicians with their personal information over insurance companies (10%), the federal government (6%) and even their own employers (7%). Eighty-three percent of respondents indicated that they trust their doctor's offices to use health information in a patient's best interest.

The survey comes at a time when healthcare organizations and private physician practices are under the gun from the federal government to implement electronic health records (EHRs) beginning this year.

Although fewer than 10% of physicians now use full EHRs, that number is expected jump to more than 50% over the next four years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's National Centre for Health Statistics.

Topping the list of concerns is the fear that criminals would somehow use their personal information for blackmail or identity theft (22%). Another 12% believe their employers would use their health information to manage benefits and compensation. Ten percent thought companies would use personal health information in hiring decisions and 9% said companies would use their health information to develop marketing programs for specific groups of consumers.

Only 10% weren't concerned at all about the use of their health information outside of a physician's practice.

According to other survey data, the public's mistrust of electronic records may be realistic.

CDW Healthcare said that a recent survey it performed found that 30% of doctors lack basic anti-virus software and 34% do not have network firewalls in place. "I think the concerns that are out there are legitimate. Typically, cutting-edge security is probably the last thing you'd think of in a primary care provider's office," said Bob Rossi, vice president of CDW Healthcare.

Rossi said security is not a one-off project for physician's practices and hospitals but is an ongoing evolutionary process.

"It evolves over time," he said. "You need to check to ensure your security is working on a quarterly, twice a year, once a year basis. Every time you put new [electronic] device on the network, it opens a potential security hole."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

FREE Computerworld Insider Guide: IT Certification Study Tips
Editors' Picks
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies